elvis’ riaa gold record awards 1958-1975 (while he was alive)

ELVIS DIED WITH ONLY 28 GOLD RECORDS. That is, he collected only twenty-eight official RIAA Gold Record Awards during his career. He also moved to that mansion on the hill without a single Platinum Record Award on his wall! Neither he nor Colonel Parker nor RCA Victor showed any real enthusiasm for the awards while he was alive. Since his death, the Presley People have done an admirable job in getting RCA and the RIAA to make things right.

RCA could have requested Gold Record Awards for a dozen Elvis records in 1958, but inexplicably did not.

Working with the vast personal files of Colonel Parker, the RIAA certified and awarded 110 Gold and Platinum Record Awards to the Presley estate in 1992. Since then, another eighty-eight Awards have been added to the list. 1

There are many reasons for RCA’s lackadaisical attitude towards these awards, an attitude apparently shared by Elvis and his manager.

And looking at the history of the Awards, this perspective was also shared by most of the record industry’s movers and shakers.


The RIAA Award here is for LPM-1951, the reissue of ELVIS’ CHRISTMAS ALBUM from 1959. It’s possible that the sales of the original 1957 album (LOC-1035) were not even counted towards this Award. When RCA issued this album in fake stereo (LSP-1951e) for Christmas ’64, it supposedly sold another 300,000 copies in a few weeks!

When the RIAA launched their “official” Gold Record Awards program in January 1958, they opened their doors to the American record industry. Any company could submit records for independent auditing and receive RIAA certification for a Gold Record Award. They offered the industry access to awards that were standardized and independently authenticated. 2

Gold record awards since the ’40s

Individual record companies had been handing out gold records since the ’40s, so there wasn’t a big rush to get records to the RIAA for their blessing. In fact, the industry essentially ignored the RIAA Awards for years. They picked up a little steam in the late ’60s; albums appeared with RIAA Gold Record stickers affixed to their covers. But the Awards didn’t really catch on until the ’70s. 3

At that point, record companies realized that the awards could used promotionally: a Gold Record was proof that “millions” of people had already bought an album, so why shouldn’t you buy it? 

But for the first ten years, most companies just didn’t see the awards as a big deal and didn’t actively participate. For example, in early 1958 RCA Victor could have immediately requested certification for Gold Record Awards for the following Elvis titles:


On April 11. 1956, RCA Victor presented Elvis with his first gold record for sales of 1,000,000 copies of Heartbreak Hotel. The presentation was casual and took place while he was recording his second million-seller, I Want You, I Need You, I Love You.

Heartbreak Hotel / I Was The One
I Want You, I Need You, I Love You / My Baby Left me
Hound Dog / Don’t Be Cruel
Love Me Tender / Any Way You Want Me
Too Much / Playing For Keeps
All Shook Up / That’s When Your Heartaches Begin
Teddy Bear / Loving You
Jailhouse Rock / Treat Me Nice

RCA Victor could have also submitted the extended-play album ELVIS, VOLUME 2, the only EP to sell more than a million copies in the US! Elvis’ JAILHOUSE ROCK would follow suit later in ’58. Several LPs probably qualified.

They could have.

But they didn’t.

And we will probably never know why. 


On February 25, 1961, Elvis was given a special golden record by RCA Victor for his latest hit, Surrender / Lonely Man, to commemorate the fact that he had sold 76,000,000 singles!

Qualifying a 45 for a Gold Record

A 45 rpm single had to sell 1,000,000 (one million) copies within the United States.

That’s it.

Qualifying an LP for a Gold Record

A 33⅓ rpm LP album had to sell $1,000,000 (one million dollars) at the manufacturer’s wholesale price. The number of copies than an LP sold was irrelevant to the Award, but was slightly more than 700,000 copies for a normal $3.99 LP.

As the price of records rose, the number of records required to reach the million-dollar gold standard declined. In 1974, new standards for an album were established and an album had to meet two criteria:

1.  An album must sell $1,000,000 (one million dollars) at the wholesale level.

2. An album must sell at least 500,000 (five-hundred-thousand) units.

By this time a “unit” consisted of either an LP or a tape. While reel-to-reels and 8-tracks were still manufactured, they sold little and had minuscule impact on sales tallies. But the cassette tape was catching on fast with music-lovers across the country.


On March 1, 1970, during his triumphant appearance at the Houston Astrodome, Elvis was presented with Gold Records for three singles (In The Ghetto, Suspicious Minds, and Don’t Cry Daddy) and two albums (FROM ELVIS IN MEMPHIS and FROM MEMPHIS TO VEGAS). He would not have a year filled with gold like this again until 1977.

Elvis’ RIAA Gold Records 1958-1975

Here are the records certified Gold by the RIAA prior to Elvis’ death in 1977. As noted, there were only twenty-eight, and this teenyweeny figure had tongues a-wagging for years after Presley’s passing about how RCA must have lied about his sales through the years to account for so low a tally. This would be put to rest in 1992 with the aforementioned certification of 110 Gold and Platinum Record Awards.

The titles below are listed chronologically as they received their certification. Within each year, titles are listed chronologically based on their original release date. Album titles are in bold print.


47-7280                  Hard Headed Woman / Don’t Ask Me Why


LPM/LSP-1382    Elvis


LPM/LSP-1707     Elvis’ Golden Records

LPM/LSP-2426    Blue Hawaii


47-7968                  Can’t Help Falling In Love / Rock-A-Hula Baby


LPM/LSP-1951      Elvis’ Christmas Album

LPM/LSP-2256     G.I. Blues

LPM/LSP-2621     Girls! Girls! Girls!


LPM/LSP-1254     Elvis Presley

LPM/LSP-2075     Elvis’ Gold Records, Volume 2

LPM/LSP-2765     Elvis’ Golden Records, Volume 3


LPM/LSP-1515      Loving You

LPM/LSP-3758    How Great Thou Art


LPM/LSP-2328    His Hand In Mine

LPM-4088             Elvis (NBC-TV Special)

47-9741                   In The Ghetto / Any Day Now

47-9764                  Suspicious Minds / You’ll Think Of Me

LSP-6020              From Memphis To Vegas/From Vegas To Memphis


Although In The Ghetto was the 42nd Elvis Presley single to sell a million copies, it was only his third RIAA Gold Record Award! It wasn’t until Presley had been dead almost fifteen years that such hits as Heartbreak Hotel, Hound Dog, Jailhouse Rock, It’s Now Or Never, Return To Sender, and Crying In The Chapel would finally be certified by the RIAA! Think on the craziness of that . . .


LSP-4155               From Elvis In Memphis

47-9768                 Don’t Cry, Daddy / Rubberneckin’

47-9835                 The Wonder Of You / Mama Liked The Roses


LSP-4362               On Stage – February 1970


74-0769                 Burning Love / It’s A Matter Of Time

LSP-4776               Elvis As Recorded At Madison Square Garden


LPM-6401             Worldwide 50 Gold Award Hits, Volume 1

LSP-4555              That’s The Way It Is

VPSX-6089           Aloha From Hawaii Via Satellite


CPL1-0341            A Legendary Performer, Volume 1

Exactly why RCA Victor, Colonel Parker, and Presley balked at building an impressive catalog of RIAA Awards through the years will probably never be known. Due to the auditing and certifications of 1992, we know that had RCA been diligent about the Awards (and about maintaining proper records about their records), Elvis might have left this mortal coil with 50-60 official Gold Records on his walls.


POSTSCRIPTUALLY, I have to stress that the RIAA Awards did not carry a lot of weight in the industry until the mid’70s, by which time Elvis wasn’t racking up the sales figures that he had previously. It’s possible that Elvis was prouder of getting a gold record from Argentina or South Africa, where people didn’t have the money to buy large quantities of records, than he did from getting a redundant RIAA Award for a title that he already had an RCA award hanging on his wall. We’ll never know.


FEATURED IMAGE: Here is Elvis with former producer Steve Sholes showing off the RIAA Gold Record Award for the 1972 album ELVIS AS RECORDED AT MADISON SQUARE GARDEN. Presley looks trim and fit, if over-tanned. Of course, there’s those eyes . . .


1   The stories of RCA’s “misplacing” thousands of pieces of paper documenting Presley’s sales through the year have been around since Elvis was alive! Apparently, most of the paperwork from the years following his death (1977-1979) are missing—years in which hundreds of millions of Elvis records were selling around the world! 4

2   Record companies could join the RIAA and pay membership dues and separate fees for the auditing and the actual physical Awards. Non-member record companies also had access to the Awards, but with significantly higher auditing fees.

3   These awards presented by a record company to one of its artists are now called in-house awards and for many records these are all we have to go on.

 RCA also “misfiled” all of the master tapes to Presley’s recordings of the 1950s. But that’s another story . . .


If Colonel Parker hadn’t been such a shortsighted, narrow-minded idjit—and Presley such a wuss when dealing with Parker—the the movie Viva Las Vegas would have had Elvis and Ann-Margret performing several duets, including You’re The Boss, one of Elvis’ best recordings of the mid-’60s. Then there would have been enough material to fill out an LP, which would have easily gone gold with both Ann and Elvis on the cover! Then I could have a picture of her and him holding their own RIAA Gold Record Awards together! But that didn’t happen, so I just have to use this old shot of Rusty.


6 Replies to “elvis’ riaa gold record awards 1958-1975 (while he was alive)”

  1. That’s a lot of hard info I’ve never seen put together in one place and much appreciated. I always assumed RCA was just under-reporting for tax purposes, hiding profit like the movie companies (supposedly) did. My guess on Elvis’s indifference is that once he had a few for the walls at home it just wasn’t that big a deal, but as you say, we’ll probably never know.

    1. NDJ

      Hey, I just added a new plugin for my Comments section and it dug up several old comments such as yours that had been “lost” in my WordPress files!

      Glad you enjoyed: the assumption of under-reporting is just and may still be in effect.

      AIn the days after Presley’s death, I was glued to the radio. Soooo many interesting interviews that would never ever ever have happened except for the unexpected demise of a deity.

      One RCA exec talked about how the company continually under-appreciated (my term for “took him for granted”) Elvis: he said that in the 18 months prior to Elvis’s death, he had sold 150,000,000 units worldwide but that RCA’s accounting system was old-fashioned they weren’t aware that he was still their biggest seller!!!

      Supposedly, all RCA’s data on Elvis sales for several years before and after his death have been “misplaced” and may never be tallied by the RIAA …


  2. Hi Neal,

    There are a few things wrong with this article from a factual standpoint. First of all, the photo of Elvis receiving the in-house gold record for “Heartbreak Hotel” at the Nashville recording session for “I Want You, I Need You, I Love You” was done on April 14, 1956, not April 11, 1956. Elvis was later photographed with this gold record back home in Memphis at the Audubon Drive home with his parents and local DJ Dewey Phillips. Later that month, Elvis was photographed again in Las Vegas with Colonel Parker and an assortment of individuals on stage. This photo was used for the cover of Cashbox magazine at some point in late May, 1956.

    Also the photo of Elvis with a heavy set gentleman from August 1, 1972 is wrong. The guy in the photo beside Elvis is not Steve Sholes. The guy in the photo is George Parkhill, who worked for RCA. Steve Sholes had died in 1968, four years prior to the photo being taken.

    As to your question regarding why more RIAA awards weren’t issued during Elvis’ lifetime. The answer is pretty easy. RCA was already issuing in-house gold records in most cases, so there really wasn’t any need to pursue the RIAA awards, although, at times it would seem that they were pursued. I should also point out that although you don’t show photographic evidence of it, Elvis did receive some RIAA gold records from Steve Sholes in late 1963 while Elvis was filming “Kissin’ Cousins.” These gold records would have been for the Christmas album and the soundtrack to “Girls!, Girls!, Girls!” I am aware of at least two photos taken. There are several more photos taken of the Houston event from March, 1970 when Elvis received his gold records for the three singles and the two albums. There is also a photo of Elvis’ producer Felton Jarvis, Chet Atkins and RCA executive Harry Jenkins holding gold records. Felton is holding a gold record for the “How Great Thou Art” LP, while Felton is holding one for “In The Ghetto” and Harry Jenkins is holding one for “Suspicious Minds.” I would imagine this photo also dates from sometime around 1970.

    1. DARYL

      Thanks for the corrections!

      The April 11 error was a typo but I have no idea why I said Sholes instead of Parkhill!

      As for RCA’s sporadic interest in RIAA Awards: who knows? The awards didn’t really take on a lot of meaning outside the industry until the ’70s, so there was little promotional value in them. But why pay for an award in 1960 for ELVIS (1382) but not ELVIS PRESLEY (1254). And in 1961, why one for BUE HAWAII but not G.I. BLUES? Like much of the inconsistencies in RCA’s (lackadaisical) handling of Presley through the decades, we will probably never know the facts and will spend hours in speculation …


      PS: Surprisingly, there is very little information on George Parkhill on the Internet, not even a Wikipedia entry .. .

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